KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Viewpoints: Myths About Women Voters; Stopping Fake Drugs; Medicaid Innovation Not Easy; The War Over Women

The Washington Post: Five Myths About Female Voters
3. Women vote based on "women’s issues," such as abortion rights and contraception. A recent poll of voters in swing states showed that women’s top priorities are health care, gas prices, unemployment and the deficit -- in that order -- with “government policies toward contraception” coming in last (Melinda Henneberger, 4/20).

The New York Times: The Wrong Way To Stop Fake Drugs
Careless buyers play Russian roulette, but those who look for credentialed sites can purchase safe drugs at a significant discount. Some Americans know this, but far more should. And it should be made entirely legal for them to do so (Roger Bate, 4/22).

JAMA: Innovation Isn’t Easy When it Comes to Medicaid
The fiscal-year 2013 budget recently passed by the House of Representatives would reduce federal Medicaid spending by $750 billion over the next decade, even if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed or struck down. It would do so by changing the program from an open-ended program for eligible individuals using matching funds from both the federal and state governments to a block grant of a fixed sum given to states, and the states decide how to allocate the money. The idea is that states can "innovate" at a local level to find ways to deliver needed benefits at reduced cost. The question is, though, can they? (Aaron Carroll, 4/20).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Congress Ramps Up Medicaid Scrutiny
On Wednesday, the state's Medicaid program will be a key focus of a congressional hearing probing potentially deep flaws in federal and state oversight of this nationwide safety net program…. The congressional hearing validates the questions raised repeatedly by this page and by some state lawmakers about whether Minnesota overpays private health plans to administer Medicaid care…. The Minnesota Medicaid questions deserve a thorough airing, but this congressional hearing must go beyond it to ask broader questions about national Medicaid oversight (4/21).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Dissecting Phony ‘War On Women’
All I can say about the "war on women" is: WOW! Let's manufacture a phony "war on women" and try to sell it to you and me. I'm not fooled, and you should not be, either, after reading about these common-sense protections of women (Barbara L. Lyons).

CNN: Phony "Mommy Wars" Avoid Real Issues For Women
[T]here is a serious issue hidden in the silliness of the alleged mommy wars, and it is the contradictory, conflicting beliefs we have about the value of taking time to care for other people. Who should take care of young people and their grandparents, and how should they be rewarded? We claim to value families, but we don't really value what it takes to care for them (Barbara Risman, 4/20).

Arizona Republic: Stripping Health Choices From Women Isn't Priority
Among Republicans there is a history of support for access to health care, including Planned Parenthood, and rejection of the intrusive laws being passed by the more extreme-right members of the party now. In fact, we Republicans just a short decade ago passed Arizona's state law requiring insurance companies to provide fair coverage of contraception -- the very bill these extreme right Republicans now are working to repeal (Linda Binder, Susan Gerard and Roberta Voss, 4/21).

The Seattle Times: Expand The Experiment With Competitive Bids To Cut Medicare Costs
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) discovered there were vast sums of money to be saved with competitive bidding for power wheelchairs, diabetic supplies and other medical goods and services…. CMS, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is already getting some push-back from members of Congress with political constituents who have prospered under the largely unexamined, unregulated fee-for-service approach…. Cutting waste, fraud and abuse in a major cost category for Medicare is huge, and it's about time. For the loudest complainers about government spending to suddenly whine about the effects of market competition on prices is over the top (4/20).

Denver Post: Health Care Change Is Inevitable
No matter what the Supreme Court decides is or is not constitutional about the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), one thing is certain: The health care industry, which consumes roughly one- sixth of our resources, is changing dramatically. Currently under enormous financial strain and demographic pressure, health care will have to reinvent itself over the next few decades -- whether or not the Supreme Court upholds the Affordable Care Act this spring (Henry Dubroff and John J. Huggins, 4/22).

Denver Post: Should Health-Care Insurers Be Forced To Pay For Contraception Coverage? No
When the government mandates that health insurers provide a new benefit, the government does not pay for the benefit and neither do the health insurance companies. You do! The government can mandate that insurers provide more benefits, but government does not give money to the health insurers to pay for them. Insurers get the money they use to pay for your medical bills from the premiums paid by you and your employer (Burke A. Christensen, 4/22).

Denver Post: Should Health-Care Insurers Be Forced To Pay For Contraception Coverage? Yes
The Republicans' gamble that they could ride a backlash against the Obama administration's efforts to increase the availability of contraception has gone terribly bad. It turns out that most Americans, especially women, agree that insurance companies should have to cover contraception -- for example, birth-control pills -- in their health insurance plans (Mark Weisbrot, 4/22).

Des Moines Register: Mental Health, Education Reforms Still Percolating
The budget bill appropriating $1.6 billion for the departments of aging, public health, human services and veterans affairs finally made it to the floor of the Senate. After 12 weeks of listening to Iowans about the services they would like the state to support, my colleagues in the Senate Democrat caucus voted with me to support strong funding for Medicaid, a health care safety net collaborative for community health centers, free clinics and rural clinics. It also funds hospitals, physicians, child care centers, child abuse prevention, family sufficiency programs, veteran’s home services, mental health services and dozens of other family services programs that touch every home in our state (Iowa state Sen. Jack Hatch, 4/21).

Des Moines Register: If Not This Health Reform, Then What?
It took hundreds of lawmakers in Washington more than a year to come to an agreement on health reform. Now the future of the 2010 law is in the hands of nine U.S. Supreme Court justices. Opponents of so-called "ObamaCare" say it is unconstitutional to require Americans to buy insurance or face a penalty. But they are salivating over the prospect of the court striking down the entire law. Let’s pretend for a moment they get what they’re hoping for. Then what? (4/20).

Boston Globe: Despite Vaccine Scare, Vermont Should Protect Public Health
Now, in both California and Vermont, where the number of incoming kindergartners with vaccinations plunged from 93 percent in 2005 to 83 percent in 2010, lawmakers are considering narrowing the rules that allow parents to claim philosophical objections to having their kids immunized in order to attend school. (Medical exemptions and religious exemptions would remain.) Lawmakers would be wise to take action (4/22).

Boston Globe: Tauton State Hospital: A Jewel, Or A Redundancy?
The Taunton State Hospital specializes in treating a serious subset of the mentally ill, including people with severe psychosis. Patients include women who are too dangerous to be in correctional facilities and men fresh from the higher-security Bridgewater facility for the criminally insane. It's a population that can’t easily -- or, in some cases, safely -- be absorbed into the state Department of Mental Health’s network of community-based group homes. Nonetheless, the Patrick administration is still planning to shutter the 169-bed facility by year’s end and insists that there are enough beds to accommodate the patients at other facilities (4/23).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Health Care Is A Basic Human Right
Providing essential health care to women should not be a partisan issue. Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, we all should agree that ensuring women access to health care is an important priority. Yet despite a historic economic recession, the Republican leaders in our state government have instead waged a war on women's health care access since taking office in January 2011 (Teri Huyck, 4/21).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Affordable Care Act Matters
Obamacare. Or, more aptly, Mamacare, Babycare or simply Healthcare. Despite all the name-calling, there's much more to health care reform than the name. And when we push beyond the political brawls over health care, particularly women's health care, and talk about the real benefits of the Affordable Care Act - the new protections against unfair insurance practices and new coverage for needed health services - women love it. Women need it. Women deserve it (Sara Finger, 4/21).

Chicago Sun-Times: Raising Cigarette Tax $1 Makes Sense For Illinois
Cigarette taxes have gone up a bunch since then. … Illinois’ tax is 98 cents a pack, 32nd highest among the states. Gov. Pat Quinn wants to raise that by $1 a pack to generate about $3 38 million a year for Medicaid. The new revenue would be matched dollar for dollar by the federal government. Nobody likes tax increases. But this is one that makes sense, and the Legislature should approve it (4/22).

Medscape: Asking the Right Questions, Choosing the Right Tests
When we treat our patients, are we treating them appropriately? Do we order tests that may be duplicate testing? The answer is probably "yes." Do we order tests that perhaps are not necessary? The answer is probably "yes." Do we order tests that are potentially harmful, more so than beneficial? The answer is probably "yes." Are these tests really cost-effective? Probably not. I would hold all of us culpable to these in some way or other (Dr. David Johnson, 4/20). 

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.